Azerbaijani Information Centers Empower Residents

April 2011

Several months ago Guba, Azerbaijan, resident Eyvaz Osmanov needed a newelectricity meter installed in his house; however, he was concerned about thecost of the installation. To learn more about the relevant rules and regulations surrounding electricity meters, he turned to his local For Your Information (FYI) Center.

Currently, IREX an ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) partner development organization operates more than 20 FYI centers throughout Azerbaijan. Each of these centers is equipped with an electronic database oflocal laws, prepared by ABA ROLI, that help citizens better understand their rights. The electronic resource has enabled users to file claims, to communicate with local and national authorities and to defend themselves invarious disputes.

When he visited the Guba FYI Center, Osmanov discovered that an August 2009 law stated that “the installation or change of electricity counters for households is the responsibility of the government authorities…and [it] will bedone free of charge.” Despite this regulation, when engineers from astate-owned electricity company arrived to install the meter, they asked Osmanov to pay for the service.

Armed with knowledge of the relevant law, Osmanov brought the issue to thehead of the electricity distribution network in Guba region. The claim went unresolved and Osmanov wrote a complaint letter to the president of Azerbaijan. He submitted the letter to the president’s website, using the Internet access provided at the FYI center.

A few days after his initial complaint, Osmanov received a letter from the President’s Office that instructed local electricity authorities to investigatethe issue. The authorities eventually apologized to Osmanov and installed the meter free of charge.

According to IREX, in the first year of the program, which is funded by theU.S. Agency for International Development, more than 11,000 citizens accessed legal information at FYI centers across Azerbaijan. Thanks to this increased access, residents are able to better understand their rights and to interact with local government authorities.

To learn more about our work in Azerbaijan, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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